Are Sci-Fi Settings the Best Settings?

Star Wars, Death Star, Roleplaying, RPG, Gaming, Sci-Fi Settings

So, after growing up a die-hard Star Wars fan and loving all manner of science fiction movies my entire life, I find it a personal tragedy that I have yet to really sink my teeth into a Sci-Fi tabletop RPG.  Sure, I’ve played any number of video games with a Sci-Fi slant (Mass Effect has been good to me) and have even rolled up some Star Wars Second Edition characters in the past (they were AWESOME), but the cards have not been in my favor of getting the chance to play what is probably the best genre of roleplaying settings.

Yes.  I know.  I keep saying that every genre is the best genre, but as a gamer, it really is the truth.  While we may all have our biases toward particular settings, I believe that deep down, all of us that get together with our friends around the gaming table truly want to try every setting there is, and given the scope of the Sci-Fi setting, pretty much every card is laid on the table for players to use!  Now, when I’m talking Sci-Fi, I’m talking the catch-all sort.  Aliens intermingling with humans, hyperspace travel and stasis sleep, the whole shebang.  Just about any type of game can be run in a Sci-Fi heavy setting, as well as damn near any sort of character.

This is a Second World War Battleship in Space. Your Argument is Invalid.

Accessibility – Given the sheer scope of THE UNIVERSE, it’s pretty safe to say that whatever a Player or GM decides they want to bring to the table in order to really immerse themselves in the setting should be fair game.  In looking at all the source material we as gamers have around us from movies and television to literature and gaming, just about everything fits in the setting.  Intergalactic Mystic Orders?  I’m looking at you, Jedi.  Green-skinned Sex bombs?  Captain Kirk has bagged a few.  Horrifying eyeless space demons with blood made from acid?  Ellen Ripley’s seen some in her day.  Basically, whatever type of game a GM wants to run, it can be done.  From a street level crime caper to epic space fleet battles, all the tools are available.  As for Players, seeing as the galaxy can quickly become a very small place, the combinations of classes and particularly races can be endless!  Think of the poor bureaucratic census droids on Coruscant!

When this is how you envision your PCs spending some downtime between missions, congrats! You’ve broken the game, and your GMs will…

Be Ready for the Challenge – I’m going to guess that in terms of RPG “crunch,” Sci-Fi settings take the cake.  When damn near anything is possible, be it from revolutionary technology or ancient aliens, chances are someone’s applied some stats and rules to it.  Now, granted, the level of depth that a GM wants to lay on the Players during a Sci-Fi campaign can no doubt vary, but if you’re the least bit like me, you’re going to want to know EVERY stat as it applies to your equipment, weapons, and particularly that bad-ass spaceship you plan on zipping around the galaxy in.  In addition to the “things” involved, one also has to be aware of the “places.”  How are the characters going to equip themselves to survive on any number of planets, space ports, or the vacuum of space itself?  That 50 feet of hemp rope everyone always had in AD&D ain’t gonna help you when your face is getting the Total Recall no-oxygen Mars treatment!

“Rescue the crew, salvage what’s left of the ship. The crew is dead, doctor. Your ship killed them.”

Intergalactic Drama – While flying through space and blowing stuff up is definitely fun, perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of Sci-Fi settings is the scope of themes that can be run throughout a single campaign.  While this is true of any RPG, there is a certain level of, for lack of a better word, alien elements that can be injected into the game to move the story and Players to all the corners of the universe and still leave them wondering what else is out there.  Additionally, crossing themes within the setting can definitely spice things up around the gaming table.  Distress signals leading to haunted space ships?  Mining expeditions run amok by hell-spawn aliens?  How about traveling back in time to save whales?  Yeah, it’s all plausible in the Sci-Fi setting… it just isn’t always good…

So, while I patiently await Robert to receive his edition of Traveller so that the Monkey in the Cage crew can fly around the galaxy and wreak havoc, let me know what your thoughts are!

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